Continental European before 1800 16 Could we clarify the artist and the subject of this ‘Assumption of the Virgin’?

Assumption of the Virgin
Topic: Artist

This looks almost certainly Spanish, possibly by a follower of Murillo.

It is unusual for the Virgin to be seated in an Assumption. Aside from this, the central figure appears to be wearing a colour other than the traditional blue (although that may be degraded).

Could the subject be Saint Rosalia of Palermo? The plants held by the cherubs include roses lower left, a palm frond centre left and a lily upper right.

This eighteenth-century work at the Museum of the Church of San Paio (Saint Pelagius), Santiago de Compostella, shows Saint Rosalia of Palermo with the traditional garland of roses, flanked by angels holding a palm frond and a lily.

See also Van Dyck’s ‘Saint Rosalie Interceding for the Plague-stricken of Palermo’, 1627, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Jacinto Regalado,

Does the collection have any provenance information?

Jacinto Regalado,

This could also be Flemish or Italian. There is neither a crown of roses nor a hermit's habit, which are relatively standard elements in this saint's iconography, though an exception is always possible.

Jacinto Regalado,

However, I personally think this is more likely to be an Assumption of the Virgin than not (and the seated pose is not especially uncommon). Also, the angel at upper left is praying to her, which is rather more in keeping with Mary than a saint.

Mark Wilson,

The seated pose isn't that unusual and is normally dictated by the shape required of the painting in its church setting. Some other bits of the iconography are odd - I can't really see the point of the martyr's palm for example - it's not really appropriate for an Assumption - or really for St Rosalia. As Jacinto says you'd expect the latter to have a crown of roses and be dressed in a brown hermit's habit. The roses and lilies here are almost peripheral and not really associated with the central figure.

Looking at the picture I wonder if it's been cut down and there is a lost lower half of a martyrdom with Mary providing some sort of intercession. There are some odd pentimenti that look like disconnected feet which suggests repainting at some time.

Mark Wilson,

Yes that's certainly possible, though in that case the palm is being carried up to heaven rather than downwards to wherever. But the composition's a complete muddle, so anything could be happening.

Even if it is an Assumption (and that should probably stay the title without stronger evidence) there may be a missing lower half with the usual apostles etc. There are certainly signs of some sort of repainting.

I'm not sure that the collection will have much in the way of info as a lot of their stuff seems to be by unknown artists - even with more recent pictures. They might have an idea which church it came from, which might be useful. If it was from a church, the odd shape might indicate a wall in an institutional setting. Surprisingly the collection doesn't have that many 'religious' pictures (the only other possibly pre-1800 one is a useful copy of a van Dyck lost in the War), it's mostly portraits. I suppose religious pictures can be reused in other churches, but that may itself cause provenance problems as it will be down as coming from a church different from that it was originally presented to.

Jacinto Regalado,

It does not help, of course, that the picture has darkened and is in need of restoration. In my opinion, it is plausible (however muddled) as an Assumption of the Virgin, and there is no compelling evidence for identifying the central figure as St Rosalie of Palermo.

I note that the two angels at lower right are carrying what seems to be the top part of a pulpit or a baptismal font, which is presumably significant, and perhaps that might yield some useful clue.

Jacinto Regalado,

It seems the collection has not been asked about provenance or other relevant information it may have about this picture, which would obviously be of interest, so that appears to be the next step.

Can Art UK or the collection provide a better image or images, ideally at higher resolution?

The archivist of the Scottish Catholic Archives who replied to my query about provenance on 3 September 2020 had no information on the subject. The painting is in St. Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh. It certainly looks Flemish in style not Spanish.

Jacinto Regalado,

Yes, Flemish seems the best fit, with a certain van Dyck influence, especially the figures of the Virgin and the angel at upper left.

Jacinto Regalado,

If Art UK can share a higher resolution image, that may help.

Jacinto Regalado,

Yes, that is better, though I still cannot be sure what is being depicted at mid to lower right, where the two angels are, but it may not matter. The best fit is for an Assumption, and the style looks Flemish, though I suppose Italian is not out of the question.

Xavier Bray 02,

I would say Spanish too- follower of Juan Valdes Leal? Late 17th century. Seville school anyway. Have a look at his Assumption in the Museo de Bellas Artes, Sevilla, and the preparatory sketch for that painting in Cleveland Museum of Art. She is similarly shown sitting and looking up towards Christ who is welcoming her into Heaven. Maybe this sketch/ painting was cut and she was originally looking up at Christ. Hard to tell from the image but can you notice and extra eye next to her nose?!If so, the artist seems to have moved the position of the face or somebody later decided to improve the Virgin's facial expression by painting over it.

Marcie Doran,

While I'm not suggesting that he is the artist, notice that the woman's hands match the hands in this work by Cornelis Schut (1597–1655) that is shown on the following two websites: (1).pdf

Her face matches the face in the following work by Cornelis Schut the Younger dated 1669:

Jacinto Regalado,

Interestingly, Cornelis Schut III (nephew and pupil of Cornelis Schut I) made his career in Seville, were he was influenced by Murillo. An Assumption by him is

Please support your comments with evidence or arguments.

jpg, png, pdf, doc, xls (max 6MB)
Drop your files here
Attach a file Start uploading

Sign in

By signing in you agree to the Terms & Conditions, which includes our use of cookies.